The back half of winter generally marks the time when most people who experience the dregs of the season begin longing for warm weather and some more daylight. But even if you live in a region where winter doesn’t hit the thermometer quite as hard, now is the time that preliminary summer plans for vacations or trips to the beach begin to take shape.
However, that anticipation for the warm weather months can sour if you’re anxious about not having enough cash to make through those summer schemes. With that in mind, here are seven small tips to help you save some rainy day scratch by the time the skies clear up in June.
1. Homemade Meals
If you make a habit of visiting the drive-thru window or if you pick up your lunch break meal a la carte, you could stand to save a bundle on those meals if you simply make your own food. Consider: If you cut out just one $10 takeout meal a week, you can save $160 in 4 months. That figure only grows the more time you spend in the kitchen rather than the lunch line.
2. Shop Smarter
As a corollary to the first tip, it is almost a guarantee that you are spending more than you need to at the grocery checkout line. Between the markup you are paying for in packaging, or the savings you are neglecting when you pass up the coupon circulars at the front of the store, you can probably stand to save a few dollars each time you shop for essentials. To keep your receipt tally low, go into the store with a list that you intend to stick to, purchase unprocessed, non-packaged items, choose generics when you can and survey the coupon page for any added savings. While it will require a little diligence to start, and some markup is unavoidable, you’ll soon be regularly shaving $10, $15 or $20 from your grocery budget.
3. Curb Utilities
Yes, it is the heart of winter, and it can be tough to make cuts on creature comforts when you’re stuck inside for a few more months, but being more judicious with your utilities will get you closer to that summertime cash. Turning down the heat in your home when you’re not there and keeping the temperature at a reasonable 70 degrees could easily cut $20 off of your monthly gas bill. Similarly, you can shave off a few dollars by simply unplugging cords from electrical outlets. Making these small concessions in your domestic habits will add up over time.
4. Cancel Subscriptions
Chances are good that you have one or two recurring payments to a subscription service that you are not getting your money’s worth from. It may seem like you are missing out by not having a certain video streaming or weekly delivery service, but you should take a hard look at the monthly payment and consider whether you might be able to live without it. While you don’t have to give up something you feel is a good value, that extra $10 or $20 that regularly leaves your bank account might go a whole lot further if you add it to your seasonal savings.
5. Tidy Up
While summer is a bit of a ways off, spring is just a few weeks off. You can use the coming change in seasons as an excuse to clean out some of the clutter in your life, and possibly make some money on the side. While you are rummaging through your closet, consider gathering up any disused items to resell, either online or in a yard sale.
6. Start A Change Jar
There is nothing wrong with going back to the tried and true methods of scrimping and saving. It’s likely that you’ve got a few dollars’ worth of coins rattling around your car right now. If you make a concerted effort to keep tabs on your change throughout any given day and make a ritual of emptying your pockets at night, you can probably rack up a couple dollars each week. By the time summer rolls around, that could add $30 or more to your savings. However, when you do choose to cash in your stash of nickels and dimes, skip the quick change machine that will charge you 10 cents on the dollar and just pick up some free coin rolls from a bank and roll the money yourself.
7. Track Your Budget
Finally, pay attention to your spending. This is less of a tip and more of a best practice for conscientious saving. However, being aware of your habits and knowing where you can stand to improve your expenses can be an enlightening exercise that will generally make you a better saver overall. All this tactic requires is diligence, a healthy collection of receipts and a spreadsheet. At the end of each day, just write down what you purchased and how much you spent. You can organize and subdivide it how you like, and you can even create goals for reigning in unnecessary costs, it’s up to you. The only requirement is to put in the work.
While each of these measures on their own won’t foot the bill for a summer vacation or make much of a dent in any future savings goals, in tandem they will put at least $500 in your pocket by the time June rolls around. And if you want to learn how to save a little more, or potentially go further with your fiscal ambitions, you should consider speaking with a financial advisor about making that $500 work for you.